Staying in the Classroom and out of the maternity ward? The effect of compulsory schooling laws on teenage births*


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     The authors thank Marina Bassi for helpful research assistance. Black and Devereux gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation and the California Center for Population Research. Salvanes thanks the Norwegian Research Council for financial support. Special thanks to Enrico Moretti for providing the data on US compulsory schooling legislation and to Phil Oreopoulos, Marianne Page and Ann Stevens for providing their data on state characteristics. A previous (2004) version of this article circulated under the title ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High? The Effects of Compulsory Schooling Laws on Teenage Births’.


This article investigates whether increasing mandatory educational attainment through compulsory schooling legislation encourages women to delay childbearing. We use variation induced by changes in compulsory schooling laws in both the US and Norway to estimate the effect in two very different institutional environments. We find evidence that increased compulsory schooling does in fact reduce the incidence of teenage childbearing in both the US and Norway, and these estimates are quite robust to various specification checks. These results suggest that legislation aimed at improving educational outcomes may have spillover effects onto the fertility decisions of teenagers.